When I was a child, I loved pot pies. You know, the generic kind you buy from the freezer bin at the supermarket, pop in the oven for half an hour, and then eat slowly, savoring each flakey crumb of pie crust.
We rarely ever got to eat them, and as a kid I thought they were too expensive; I know I was told that as a general reason why Mom didn’t buy prepared/frozen foods. I’m sure I was also told that processed food isn’t good for our bodies, but I don’t remember ever thinking much about it. I just thought they were too expensive, and if we got them by request on our birthdays, wow, that was a splurge!
Now that I am a mother, I realize my mom was thinking of her kids health as the primary reason she didn’t buy us pot pies more than once in a very blue moon. Compared to the fresh fruits and veggies, fresh fish, whole grains, natural cheeses, whole chickens, and other “real” foods that filled my mom’s shopping cart, frozen pot pies are cheap(!) and easy(!!). If they were a healthful food, every mother would serve them twice a week.
My mother has four grown daughters with children; 14 beautiful grandchildren. I wonder if she thinks with satisfaction about all the work of all those years in raising her children, and the wonderful reward of grandchildren for her toil. Although the feeding of a child is not nearly the whole of parenting, nor the gravest of moral responsibilities in their upbringing, it sure does take a lot of time and effort. In addition to the million things my mother taught me, gave me, and sacrificed for me, I’m grateful for the good foods she made me (and made me eat!); she gave me the nutritional foundation to grow a strong body and be ready for motherhood myself.
Have you ever read a book that sort of pulls together a lot of loose questions for you? I mean, you have been told a basic theory about a topic, and yet you know of personal situations that don’t fit into the basic theory. And then you are presented with a new paradigm that makes so much sense on a diverse clinical level.
Such was my experience with the book Cure Tooth Decay: Heal & Prevent Cavities with Nutrition by Ramiel Nagel. Although I knew, like most moms, that a proper diet which included calcium was essential to making healthy teeth, I didn’t know that an excellent diet can actually prevent tooth decay. Even without brushing. Whaaat?
I’m not advocating not brushing one’s teeth (neither is the book’s author), however, there is extensive documentation of hundreds of people in cultures across the globe with excellent, carie-free, dental health. And they were armed with excellent diets (which varied across the globe, naturally) rather than with toothbrushes. (This documentation was the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist who traveled the globe to find people with traditional diets and to observe their dental health. He became so impressed with their overall health, and longevity, that his life work became titled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.)
How can people have excellent dental health without brushing (and flossing, and swishing, and getting dental cleanings every 6 months)? This is what I wondered, as my paradigm for dental health was that the things that we put on our teeth (food, especially sugar) and then failing to brush it off soon enough, will cause acids and/or feed bacteria that eat away at our tooth enamel. This book debunks the “sugar on teeth” theory, in that white sugar does not feed bacteria, it actually kills it. But we all know some kid that’s addicted to sugar, and has a mouth full of fillings to prove it, right? This is where the nutrition factor comes in: it’s not the sugar on the teeth that wear away at the enamel, it’s the sugar inside the body. White sugar (and white flour, and a bunch of other nutrition negatives) cause the body to swing towards an acid pH, and the body must compensate by pulling an alkaline substance (like calcium) from storage to keep the pH balanced, or to send to a more important part of the body, like the brain or heart. The body may decide in this crisis situation that losing a tooth is better than losing an organ, and so a living tooth slowly loses it’s health from the inside out.
This explains why one tooth may be in decay, while the one next to it is fine (one would think that all teeth in the mouth would decay at the same rate if it were the foods present in the mouth affecting them, as sugar would be distributed everywhere). The body may prioritize one tooth as a source for pulling calcium over another tooth. This also explains why breast-fed babies tend to have more excellent dental health than their bottle-fed counterparts. Dental caries in infants have long been blamed on formula pooling in the cheek from bottle feeding, yet breastfed babies can also sleep with pooled milk and yet have better teeth. It is the better nutrition in the breastmilk that is the basis for better dentition, rather than the absence of milk on the teeth themselves.
Of course, breast-milk is not always excellent nutrition; the health-giving properties of breastmilk are tied to the excellence of the mother’s diet. Ramiel Nagel’s own daughter was being exclusively breastfed when she began to develop tooth decay. The whole family was vegetarian, so they thought they were very health conscious in their diet, yet the lack of essential animal fats and proteins had actually thrown them into a state of malnutrition. As Mr. Nagel research Dr. Price’s writings, he became convinced that they must change their diet dramatically, or all suffer physical and dental degeneration.
Dr. Price found that the people groups he studied with the most excellent dental health, some with nearly 100 percent immunity to dental caries across the entire population, ate liberally and daily from the following 3 food sources:
Dairy products from grassfed animals
Organs and muscle meat from fish and shellfish
Organs of land animals
Mr. Nagel’s book goes into fascinating detail on the whole diets of several groups of people (some peoples ate hardly any dairy, etc. but had larger doses of the other special foods, etc.). He also explores the minerals and fat-soluble vitamins (namely calcium, phosphorus, Vitamins A and D from natural sources) which are the reason (or part of the reason) that these foods build healthy teeth (and bodies).
At the end of this article are some lists of Eat Daily/Weekly/Rarely/Never which are Ramiel Nagel’s suggestions. This list is overwhelming to me, as it would seem like a full time job to make sure each of my children ate all the recommended foods daily and weekly. However, I have to remember that we are doing a decent job on the 3 important foods categories: particularly eating lots of raw milk, yellow butter, and cod liver oil. And considering that the rest of our diet is very whole-foods centered, and that I have had this good nutrition while pregnant and breastfeeding, it isn’t surprising that my children all have beautiful strong teeth (so far!). For those that are already realizing poor dental health as a result of poor nutrition, it may be wise to go drastic and follow Mr. Nagel’s diet to reverse tooth decay, as he was able to accomplish for his daughter.
Of course, many factors are likely present in decay situations, and tooth surfaces that allow for compacted food to be left on them, like molar chewing surfaces, and the baby’s teeth which are in the pool of milk, do tend to be the first to decay. Brushing seems to be a reasonable and helpful habit for minimizing these factors, especially if the toothpaste does not have toxic fluoride but instead a healthy dose of Xylitol, a natural bacteria-fighting sugar with re-enamalizing properties. (Ramiel Nagel has a negative opinion of Xylitol based on one study on its safety; my research leads me to believe it is safe and effective. Read Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride.)
However, brushing should be seen as the secondary dental habit, with excellent nutrition being the first and most important.
Ramiel Nagel outlines a diet that has allowed 90% of those who follow it to stop tooth decay. If you already have teeth decaying in the mouth, consider a strict adherence to this diet.
Foods to Eat Daily:
1/8-1/2 tsp. fermented Cod Liver Oil 3x daily with meals, or 1/2-4 T. organic/wild liver
1/8-1/4 tsp. of high vitamin butter oil 3x daily with meals, or 1-2 T. yellow butter per meal
2-6 cups raw grassfed whole milk
2 cups bone broth
1-4 T. grassfed bone marrow
2 fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt
Substantial quantities of vegetables, such as carrots, beet greens, kale, chard, zucchini, broccoli, celery, sting beans, including soups and juices
Seaweed or kelp
Eat Several Times Weekly:
Raw, rare cooked, or marinated/fermented wild caught fish
Raw, rare cooked, or marinated/fermented grassfed beef or lamb
Raw fresh oysters or clams
Raw, rare cooked, or marinated/fermented liver of grassfed beef, lamb, chicken, fish, turkey, etc.
Raw or soft cooked eggs from grass-fed poultry
Eat Only Rarely/Avoid If Dental Health is Poor:
Dried Fruit, and any very sweet fruits, such as orange, grapes, peaches, banana and pineapple
Natural Sweeteners, such as unheated honey, organic maple syrup, agave nectar, fruit juice, and rapadura
Foods to Completely Avoid:
Sugar, in all processed forms
Flour and grain products, unless soaked or sprouted
Hydrogenated Oils, and low quality oils, such as soybean, canola, safflower. Replace with organic coconut, olive, or palm oils, butter, suet, or tallow.
Any junk food
Coffee, soft drinks, nutrasweet, and anything artificial
Soymilk, protein powder, and excess Tofu (my note: protein powder which is unheated raw whey is OK as it is still raw milk)
Pasteurized milk, even organic
Non-grassfed meat and eggs, and farmed fish
Alcohol and cigarettes
Drugs, whether recreational or prescription, and vaccines